US 3903665 A
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent Harrison Sept. 9, 1975 1 HEAT ENERGY TRANSMISSION CONTROL PANEL Primary Examiner-Ernest R. Purser Assistant Examiner-James L. Ridgill, Jr.  Inventor a grg ii f z gggl gzjf N Attorney, Agent, or Firm-Townsend and Townsend Mex. 87106  Filed: Nov. 28, 1973 1 1 ABSTRACT  US. Cl 52/171; 52/173  Int. Cl E04h 14/00; E06b 7/12  Field of Search 52/171, 172, 382, 404407, 52/743, 576,577, 173', 32/171  References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 948,541 2/1910 Coleman 52/382 1,683,966 9/1928 Forster 52/406 2,474,712 6/1949 Aparicio... 52/171 2,989,790 6/1961 Brown 52/743 3,686,815 8/1972 Von Bose 52/743 3,695,681 10/1972 Dockery 52/171 FOREIGN PATENTS OR APPLICATIONS 2,007,664 1/1970 France 52/171 A panel for providing controlled transmission of heat energy therethrough. A chamber having sidewalls defined by a pair of laterally spaced thermally transmissive windows is coupled via a transport duct to the outlet of a storage bin. The bin contains a quantity of thermal insulative granular material SUfflClBflt to fill the chamber and an air blower for propelling the ma terial from the bin to the chamber. A valved outlet at the bottom of the chamber permits selective return of material from the chamber to the bin. The amount of material in the chamber determines the thermal transmissivity of the panel. The present invention can be used in place of a conventional window to control solar heating of a building during the day and heat loss at night. The invention could also be used to control the energy input to a conventional energy collector.
10 Claims, 5 Drawing Figures COLLECTOR PATEHTED 9 975 SHEET 1 [1F 2 COLLECTOR HEAT ENERGY TRANSMISSION CONTROL PANEL BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION This invention relates to the art of structural wall panels. More particularly, this invention relates to systems for controlling the transmission of thermal energy into and out of a structure such as a dwelling.
Man and some monkeys build shelters for themselves, and the history of architecture is the history of these shelters. Equally as important as the basic roof, floor and walls of the shelter have been the openings in these shelters; the doors, vents and windows. Buildings need openings if their occupants are alive and awake, openings to let sun and air in, openings to look out of and to hear through. An opening in a building is best if it is controlled. It is best if it can be closed to sun, wind, cold or to some of these as glass does by admitting sun but stopping wind.
Much attention has been given to the matter of controlling openings in buildings. The Egyptians made mats which they pulled across openings in their building to create shade or to prevent heat loss. The Romans used mica as windows. In the last hundred years glass has become cheap, flat and of even good quality. Windows have increased enormously. As the use of windows have increased so have the means to close windows to block the light they admit in the day if one chooses to block the chill that passes through the thin window at night. Curtains, shades, blinds, folding doors, storm windows are all means to control the window to turn it back from a window into a wall. The various inadequacies of these means are familiar to all of us. Curtains get dirty and fade, curtains are poor at keeping out the cold. Blinds jam and collect dust, blinds are poor at keeping out the cold. Folding doors can be effective at keeping out the cold but they are bulky and require free space next to the window in which to swing. Curtains, blinds and doors are all external apparatus open to damage from dirt, mishandling and other injuries.
It is after a discussion such as this that the advantages of the structural panel of the present invention become apparent. It is an internal device not subject to the dangers the curtain, the shade and the door are. It is a superior insulation far better than curtains or blinds, better even than the door for there is no problem in seals around the edges. It has a beauty displaying patterns of flow as it fills and empties like the curtain it is suitable both as a window closer and a decoration.
A window panel of the present invention is such a superior device that windows so equipped can be used in ways new to architecture. That is, such window panels may be used directly in front of heat storage materials such as solar heat collectors. The heat storage material is easily able to hold the accumulated heat during the night or even during consecutive cloudy days because the window panel is able to provide good insulation during such periods.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION The invention comprises a structural panel which controls the transmission of energy therethrough. The panel includes first and second parallel thermal energy transmission members defining a chamber therebetween, means for controllably providing a quantity of thermal insulative material within the chamber, and
means for storing the unused thermal insulative material. The amount of insulative material within the chamber thus controls the passage of thermal energy through the panel, allowing for the selective influx of heat energy during the daytime and for selectively preventing the efflux of heat energy at night. The thermal energy transmission members may be windows or other panels suitable for the transmission of thermal energy. The apparatus of the present invention can be used to replace the standard window panel in a structure, and can be also used as a control means for a solar energy storage device.
In the summer, or during warm periods, this structural panel is a great advantage in cutting cooling loads and costs. In solar heated structures, the panel chambers would be full of insulative material anytime the heat loss from within the structure exceeded the heat gain through the collecting panels. These instances would occur most probably at night or during periods of heavy overcast.
The preferred embodiments of the present invention utilize air blown or sucked through tubes for emptying and filling the chamber. This is most easily accomplished by having a drain opening at the bottom of the chamber. Once the insulative material is out of the chamber it is channeled to a storage container via an air duct. This storage container can be located immediately below the panel, or can be at a remote location and can service several of such panel assemblies. Such a large central storage system can be utilized to control a multitude of panel assemblies in a single building.
For a fuller understanding of the nature and advantages of the invention, reference should be had to the following detailed descriptions taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a front elevational view of one embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 2 is an enlarged sectional view taken along lines 2-2 of FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 is a sectional view taken along lines 3-3 of FIG. 2', and
FIG. 4 is a sectional view of another embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 5 is a sectional view of yet another embodiment of the invention.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT Turning now to the drawings, FIGS. 13 illustrate a first embodiment of the invention suitable for use as a structural panel in a house, office building, greenhouse or the like. A pair of transmission or window members l0, l2 fabricated from glass or other material capable of readily transmitting solar radiant energy therethrough is mounted in a frame 14. In certain applications it may be desirable to construct one or the other or both of the window members of partially reflective material to limit radiative heat transfer. As best shown in FIG. 2, window member 10 is located on the exterior side of the panel with the outer surface thereof exposed to incident solar radiation indicated by arrows 15. Window members 10, 12 are laterally spaced in order to define along with the inner perimetral portions of frame 14 a chamber 16 for a purpose described below.
Frame member 14 has an enlarged bottom portion 18 which provides a storage bin for a quantity of radiation insulative material 20. Material 20 comprises any suitable light granular or dry particulate thermal insulating material which is easily cycled through the panel in the manner described below. Some materials found suitable for this purpose are cork particles and wood shavings. Plastic or styrofoam beads have also been found to provide excellent results, particularly beads ranging in size from about 1/16 inch to 1 inch. For improved performance the beads can be treated so as to be antistatic. Other suitable materials will occur to those skilled in the art.
As best shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, the sidewalls 21, 22 of storage bin 18 are provided with a pair of duct openings 23, 24 to provide communication between the interior of bin 18 and a pair of vertical transportation ducts 26, 27 provided in the mullions of frame member 14. The lower portion 19 of bin 18 is inclined toward duct openings 23, 24 so that material 20, which usually has an angle of repose of approximately 30, flows to the ducts. The upper ends of transportation ducts 26, 27 are folded downwardly to provide transportation material outlets opening into the upper portion of chamber 16. The top portion 28 of frame member 14 is provided with a pair of conventional screened air vents 29, 30 which provide an outlet for air forced along the transportation path. Check valves 31 normally close the top ends of ducts 26, 27.
A conventional blower/compressor 32 is secured to the rear wall of storage bin 18. Blower 32 is operable to provide a source of forced air or a source of suction. The mouth of blower/compressor 32 is preferably positioned above the level of material 20 when storage bin 18 is filled with the requisite amount thereof.
Mounted in the top portion of storage bin 18 is a collecting trough 34 having an air-tight valve 35 secured to the bottom thereof. When opened, one-way check valve 35 provides a return path enabling thermal insulative material 20 to flow into storage bin 18 under the influence of suction or vacuum.
If the apparatus of the present invention is to be used to control an energy collector, such a collector 38 is mounted on the interior side of window member 12. Collector 38 may comprise any one of a number of conventional devices capable of functioning as an energy sink for radiation transmitted through inner window member 12. For example, collector 38 may comprise a water storage collector, a slab of masonry or concrete, or the like.
In operation, storage bin 18 is filled with sufficient material 20 to completely fill chamber 16 and collecting trough 34. During energy collection periods, materials 20 resides in storage bin 18 so that chamber 16 provides no appreciable impediment to the transmission of radiant energy through the panel. Thus, energy 15 is transmitted through window member 10, vol ume l6, and window member 12 to collector 38. During nightfall or during periods of low incident radiation 15, or during other periods when it is undesirable to permit radiation 15 to be transmitted to the interior of the associated structure, or from the interior to the exterior thereof, valve 35 is closed and blower/compressor 32 is actuated by means of appropriate control circuitry, e.g., a wall switch or a thermostat (not shown). When blower/compressor 32 is actuated, material collected in storage bin 18 is forced through duct apertures 23, 24 and upwardly along transportation ducts 26, 27. After reaching the upper outlets of transportation ducts 26, 27, material 20 falls under the influence of gravity into volume 16, while the transporting air exists via vents 29, 30. Within a short period of time, volume 16 is filled with material 20 to the requisite level, material 20 being supported at the bottom by collecting trough 34.
With material 20 now in place in volume 16, the insulative qualities thereof prevent the passage of radiation or heat through the panel in either direction. Thus, radiation or heat interior to the structure is trapped herein. Likewise, radiation incident to exterior window member 10 is blocked from further transmission to interior window member 12. Thereafter, during an energy collection period or during a period when it is desired to permit radiation of the structure to pass through the panel, check valve 35 is opened, enabling material 20 to be sucked back into storage bin 18 by blower/compressor 38.
It is noted that in some applications it may be desirable to circulate a lesser quantity of material 20 to chamber 16 than that required to completely fill the chamber. In such a case, blower/compressor 32 is actuated for a time period sufficient to fill chamber 16 with material 20 to the desired level.
FIG. 4 illustrates an alternate embodiment of the invention in which the window section 40 is remote from the storage section 42. This embodiment is primarily intended to provide a single storage section 42 controlling a plurality of window sections 40, but only one window section is illustrated in FIG. 4 for clarity. Window section 40 includes exterior and interior window members 44, 46, respectively, and perimetral frame member 48 which define a chamber 50.
The storage bin 56 of storage section 42 is connected to window section 40 by means of a supply duct 58 and a return duct 60. Supply duct 58 has a first end portion 62 extending to a position adjacent the bottom of storage bin 56, and a second opposite end portion 64 extending into the top of chamber 50. A downwardly opening check valve 66, illustrated in the open position in FIG. 4, is adapted to normally close end portion 64 of supply duct 58. Return duct 60 has a first end 68 in communication with the lower end of chamber 50 and a second end 70 extending to a position near the top of storage bin 56. An upwardly opening, normally closed check valve 54 covers the end 70 of return duct 60. Blower/compressor 72 is connected to storage bin 56 by means of a duct 74 attached to storage bin 56 adjacent the upper end thereof. Blower/compressor 72 is capable of either applying forced air or suction to bin 56 as required.
The embodiment of the invention illustrated in FIG. 4 operates as follows: Light granular or particulate thermal-insulating material 76 is introduced into stor age bin 56. Such material 76 can be selectively transferred to chamber 50 between window members 44, 46 by operating blower/compressor 72 in the forced air mode. The forced air from blower/compressor 72 will force material 76 into end 62 of supply duct 58. The pressure therefrom will bias check valve 66 into the open position so that material 76 enters chamber 50. The forced air from blower/compressor 72 biases check valve 54 on return duct 60 in its normally closed position Material 76 in chamber 50 is returned to storage bin 56 by operating blower/compressor 72 in the suction mode. This suction will bias check valve 66 into the closed position. The suction will also reduce air pressure in storage bin 56 to thereby open check valve 54, and material 76 in chamber 50 will be sucked into the storage bin through return tube 60. Hence, the amount of material 76 in chamber 50 is controllable solely by operation of the blower compressor 72 in the proper mode. A single storage bin 56 can thus be used to control the amount of material 76 in several window sections 40 to control thermal transmission through a plurality of window sections 40.
An embodiment of the present invention wherein thermal insulative material 80 is supplied to a window section 82 and returned to a storage bin 84 along a single duct 86 as illustrated by way of reference. to FIG. 5. Although only a single window section 82 is illustrated in FIG. 5, a plurality of such window sections can be operated off a single storage bin 84. One end 88 of duct 86 is connected to window section 82 at its lower end. An upwardly opening normally closed check valve 90 covers end 88 of duct 86. A second normally closed check valve 92 covers an aperture 95 in the side of duct 86 adjacent end 88. Aperture 92 is in communication with a sub-chamber 94 at the bottom of window section 82 and material 80 is allowed to flow into sub-chamber 94 through apertures 96. The size of subchamber 94 is exaggerated in the drawing for clarity.
The other end 98 of duct 86 extends to a position adjacent the top of storage bin 84. A normally closed check valve 100 covers end 98 of duct 86. A second check valve 102 covers an aperture 104 in duct 86 adjacent the bottom of storage bin 84. A blower/compressor which is operable either in a forced air or a suction mode is attached to storage bin 84 adjacent the top thereof and is covered with a screen 108 to prevent material 80 from being drawn into the blower/compressor.
The embodiment of the present invention illustrated in FIG. 5 operates in the following manner. A quantity of material 80 is provided in storage bin 84. This material is transferred to window section 82 by operating blower/compressor 106 in the forced air mode. The forced air will bias check valve 102 in the open position so that material 80 will flow into duct 86. Also, check valve 90 will be biased into the open position so that material 80 will flow into window section 82. Check valves 90 and 100 will remain in their closed positions. Since material 80 can be relatively light, particulate material, the material will be ejected into window chamber 82 at relatively high velocity and will flow in a column up through the center of the window section to provide an interesting artistic effect. The color of the material can be selected to enhance the artistic effect.
Material 80 is withdrawn from window section 82 by operating blower/compressor 106 in the suction mode. Such suction will bias check valves 100 and 92 into the open position. check valves 90 and 102 remaining closed. Hence, material 80 will be drawn through duct 86 and deposited in storage chamber 84.
As will now be apparent, the invention described above provides a solar energy panel which enables selective control of the transfer of energy therethrough in either direction and which may be embodied in a variety of structures in accordance with the requirements of any given application. For example, window mem bers l0, 12 may comprise the structural panels of a greenhouse. Similarly, window members 10, 12 may comprise a double-paneled skylight in a building. The window members can be formed into different shapes to suit different applications, and need not be flat. In addition, window members 10, 12 may be fabricated from a transparent, pliable plastic material and may be a portion of an inflatable structure.
While the foregoing provided a complete and adequate disclosure of the preferred embodiments of the invention, various modifications, alternate constructions and equivalents may be employed without departing from the true spirit and scope of the invention. For example, if desired window member 12 may be omitted and a suitably configured collector 38 may be secured to the interior side of frame 14 to define the inner wall of chamber 16. Accordingly, the above description and illustration should not be construed as limiting the scope of the invention which is defined by the appended claims.
What is claimed is:
I. An energy panel for controlling the transmission of thermal energy therethrough by interposing a quantity of dry thermal insulative material in the path of said energy, said panel comprising:
a window member fabricated from a material adapted to transmit at least a portion of incident radiation energy therethrough;
means adjacent said window member defining a chamber a quantity of dry thermal insulative material;
storage means receiving a quantity of dry thermal insulative material sufficient to fill said chamber;
means for transporting said material to said chamber;
means for recirculating said material from said chamber to said storage means, whereby the amount of said energy transmitted through said window member is controlled by the amount of said material located in said chamber.
2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said chamber defining means includes a second window member spaced laterally of said first window member, said second window member being fabricated from a material adapted to transmit at least a portion of the incident radiation energy therethrough.
3. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said transporting means comprises air-blower means for providing a stream of forced air directed into said storage means and transport duct means providing a flow path from said storage means to said chamber to enable material located in said storage means to be transported therealong to said chamber by said stream of forced air.
4. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said dry thermal insulative material comprises and foamed polystyrene beads.
5. The apparatus of claim 1 further including an energy collector positioned adjacent said chamber to receive energy transmitted therethrough.
6. The method of controlling the amount of thermal energy transmitted in either direction through a trans mission member having an exterior and an interior surface, said method comprising the steps of:
a. providing a chamber adjacent said interior surface;
b. varying the thermal transmissivity of the volume defined by said chamber by transporting a quantity of dry thermal insulative material from a storage bin to said chamber to reduce said thermal transmissivity and returning said material from said chamber to said storage bin to increase said thermal transmissivity.
7. Apparatus for controlling the transmission of thermal energy into and out of a dwelling or other walled structure, said apparatus comprising:
at least one window section interposed in a wall of said structure, said window section including exterior and interior generally light transmissive members and a perimetral frame, said exterior and interior members and said frame defining a chamber; dry particulate thermal insulative material;
means for supplying said dry particulate thermal insulative material to said chamber to reduce the transmission of thermal energy through the window section; and
means for withdrawing said dry particulate thermal insulative material from said chamber to allow increased transmission of thermal energy through said window section.
8. The apparatus of claim 7 wherein said window section comprises a plurality of window sections interposed in the walls of said structure, each said window section including exterior and interior light transmissive members in a perimetral frame, the exterior and interior members and the frame of each said window section defining a chamber; wherein said supply means comprises means for supplying said dry particulate thermal insulative material to each said chamber to reduce the transmission'of thermal energy through each said window section; and wherein said withdrawal means comprises means for withdrawing said dry particulate thermal insulative material from each said chamber to increase transmission of thermal energy through each said window section.
9. The apparatus of claim 7 and additionally comprising a storage bin, said dry particulate thermal insulative material being stored in said storage bin; wherein said supply mean comprises a supply duct connecting said storage bin with the chamber, and means for applying forced air to said storage bin to force said dry particulate thermal insulative material through said supply duct to said chamber; and wherein said withdrawal means comprises a return duct connecting said chamber with said storage bin, and means for applying suction to said storage bin to draw the dry particulate thermal insulative material from the chamber through the return duct and into the storage bin.
10. The apparatus of claim 7 and additionally comprising a storage bin, said particulate thermal insulative material being stored in said storage bin; and wherein said supply means and said withdrawal means jointly comprise a duct connecting said storage bin with the chamber, means for supplying forced air to said storage bin, valve means allowing passage of said material from the storage bin through duct and into the chamber upon application of said forced air, means for applying suction to said storage bin, and valve means allowing withdrawal of said material from the chamber through the duct and into the storage bin upon application of said suction.
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